West Kowloon Cultural District

Thoughtful ideas make a difference

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 November, 2011, 12:00am

Powerful designs shape culture by changing ways of life. As Hong Kong aspires to become an artistic hub, local designers and officials can learn from other places that have been able to infuse art into the everyday lives of their people and create new cultural concepts in society through thoughtful designs.

'For the third year, the Business of Design Week is offering a full track at the conference to address different aspects of 'culture and the city' in relevance to the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD),' says William To, project director of event organiser Hong Kong Design Centre.

Among the panellists are cultural experts Ole Scheeren, Wu Ching-yu, Jurgen Mayer, Louisa Hutton, John Higson, Bjarke Ingels and Shigeru Ban.

'They have produced extraordinary designs and will share their expertise and insights into developing a successful artistic hub with us,' says To.

'By learning from the best and understanding our needs, and leaving it to the hired experts at the West Kowloon Cultural District to make the best decisions for us, we hope [the WKCD] Project will blossom ... and play an important role in the cultural and economic growth of our city.'

Mayer is the creator of the Metropol Parasol, the world's largest wooden structure in the old quarter of Seville, Spain.

To says the Metropol Parasol is much more than a showcase of superb engineering design, and has helped Seville build a reputation as a modern city of culture and taste, as evident from the growth of tourism.

'With large mushroom-like structures, it offers an archaeological site, a farmers' market, an elevated plaza, multiple bars and restaurants underneath and inside the parasols,' he says. 'Its panorama terrace at the very top of the parasols attracts people of all ages and social strata.'

Another example of design facilitating the permeation of the arts into people's lives is the Eslite Bookstore in Taiwan, the brainchild of Wu. The bookstore, which aims to highlight the importance of humanities, arts, creativity and life, regularly hosts cultural activities such as theatre performances and concerts on its premises.

Its stores in different parts of Taiwan are designed to cater to the needs and reflect the culture of the neighbourhood it is located in. With its sleek and cosy design and 24-hour operation, the bookstore also combines leisure and commerce.

'The Eslite Bookstore has become a Taiwanese landmark,' To says. 'People travel from all over to visit it, and its clever design is a new symbol of Taiwan's culture.'

Meanwhile, the 100Hus project in Stockholm, Sweden, created by Higson, director of People Owned, a non-profit group that focuses on sustainable city and country development, has transformed a slum into an innovative cultural initiative that mixes creative arts, community involvement and sustainable development.

'I visited the project district and was amazed by the achievements,' says To. The project model may be applicable to sites in Hong Kong such as the former Police Married Quarters in Hollywood Road, he explains. 'Higson converted a vacant building in an old area, changing the dynamics of the community. The same could be done here.'

To says it is inspiring the way the residents became a unified force as they rebuilt a derelict area. 'It is never easy to gain the trust and approval from a neighbourhood for new developments,' he says. 'It was amazing how a socially conscious developer was able to engage participation and encourage everyone to embrace change. This is a key example of how a community and a property development should come together for everyone's benefit.'


Date December 3
Time 9.30am-12.55pm (morning track); 2.15pm-5.50pm (afternoon track)
Venue Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre